When the Camaro first went on sale in 1966 for the 1967 model year, Chevy really needed a car to compete against the extremely successful first generation Ford Mustang of the mid 1960’s. What the Camaro ended up doing was more than just stealing a few sales away from Ford. They created an affordable vehicle that appealed to many buyers, and started a pony car rivalry that would last for almost half century and counting.

The 1967 Camaro SS came standard with a 295-hp, 380 lb-ft torque V8 engine with a four barrel carb and either a 4-speed manual transmission or Powerglide Automatic. It accelerated from 0-60 MPH in approximately 8.0 seconds and was pretty quick in its day. The first generation Camaro remained in production to the 1969 model year. Future generations of the Camaro were heavily restyled until it took a seven year production hiatus for the 2003 – 2010 model years. In 2009, the Camaro returned in its fifth generation for the 2010 model year with retro-styling that was heavily inspired by the first generation Camaro. It competes against rivals such as the Dodge Challenger, and Ford Mustang, both of which were also styled with a retro look inspired by their ancestors of the 1960s.

With its return, the Camaro appeals to a whole new generation of buyers just like the first generation one did originally. Once again, it’s stealing sales away from Ford and reignited the pony car rivalry. To enhance its appeal to the new generation, Chevy has creatively embedded the car in numerous media including television shows such as the revived Hawaii Five-O and movies such as the film Transformers where it plays a fictional character Bumblebee.

To keep the Camaro fresh for 2013, Chevy brought back the 1LE performance package that was originally introduced in 1988. This is a road-racing inspired version of the Camaro (inspired from Camaros involvement in Pro-Am road racing) and comes with distinct gearing, suspension tuning and tires. We were handed the keys to the Camaro SS with the 1LE performance package to see what it’s like to live with on a daily basis, and to see whether the reintroduction of the 1LE performance package is enough to keep the Camaro’s excitement going.

On the Road

During our time with the car, we planned a day to drive the Connecticut wine trail, as its journey brings travelers through some fantastic country roads. When we arrived at the first winery, the lady who served us at the tasting was very talkative and kept chatting away. During her rambling, we both couldn’t stop thinking about how badly we wanted the tasting to end and get back in the car. As we arrived at the next winery on our list, we both questioned if we even wanted to go inside. After all, this would take away precious time from driving such a fun car. Although we went inside, we rushed through the tasting as quickly as possible then quickly crossed off the remaining wineries from our list. Instead we became consumed with all of the fun the Camaro provides.

The Camaro SS with manual transmission is powered by a 6.2 liter V8 engine that produces 426 HP @ 5,900 RPM, and 420 lb-ft torque @ 4,600 RPM. This is practically the same engine that’s used in the Corvette Coupe minus just a few less horses (4 HP). SS Models with the automatic transmission produce 400 HP, and get Active Fuel Management which shuts down half of the cylinders under light-load conditions to improve fuel economy, 24 MPG highway (A/T) versus 24 MPG (Manual).

The V8 engine is raw and muscular. Acceleration from a stop feels strong and invigorating. We measured 0 – 60 MPH in just 4.9 seconds although we’ve heard it can be done faster in optimum conditions and don’t doubt that. Our car came equipped with Performance Launch Control which is designed to optimize hard acceleration launches (see video below for demo). This feature might appeal to some, but we preferred to take control ourselves and found that doing so our 0 – 60 times were actually quicker. Throttle response is immediate. Acceleration is linear all the way to the 6,200 RPM red-line and feels fastest above 4,000 RPM. The shifter feels precise when going in all gears, and the clutch uptake is perfectly weighted for this car. It’s not light, but it’s not too heavy either.

httpv://youtu.be/r9NXaVfWX8E

As fast as the acceleration is, the most incredible and exciting thing about this car is the sound the exhaust makes. Our car had the newly available for 2013 vacuum-actuated dual exhaust mode. This system is a must buy for any enthusiast considering purchasing the Camaro. It truly sounds amazing and significantly adds to the car’s fun-factor. It provides a throaty rumble at low engine speeds and a thunderous sound when accelerating aggressively without being overbearing. The only negative side is that as you press the gas pedal, the car screams “more, more, more!” It’s certainly hard not to oblige the request.  Even upon start-up, it’s music to our ears (see video below for demo). On the other hand, if you plan on carrying passengers that are not car enthusiasts thinking we’re just on a point A to point B drive, they may complain. But you know what, who cares? This car sounds amazing!!!

httpv://youtu.be/KcsODyAOIPU

Steering in the Camaro was updated for 2013. Instead of the 2012’s hydraulic setup, the 2013 model uses an electric power steering system that is designed to feel lighter for easy maneuverability at low speeds while increasing resistance for a more direct feel with greater feedback at higher speeds. Not only did the electric power steering system impress us, we also felt that the steering wheel itself provides a nice and comfortable grip thanks partly to the sueded-microfiber trim and is ideally weighted in all driving situations.

The suspension is a fully independent configuration in both front and rear. Different suspension packages are offered based on trim level. Our SS Coupe with the 1LE Performance Package has the FE6 suspension which is tuned for track days, but is equally enjoyable on curvy country roads. In front it uses a double-ball-joint, multi-link strut configuration that is fully adjustable for camber, caster and toe. In the rear, it uses a progressive-rate coil springs over shocks that is fully adjustable for camber and toe. This configuration includes monotube rear dampers (replacing the SS twin-tube dampers), and larger stabilizer bars for improved body control. On the road, this suspension is firm and the chassis is rigid providing a solid feel in the corners while maintaining a comfortable ride. Our car is heavy weighing in at 3,860 pounds. We were originally concerned that this heft would reduce the cars toss-ability, but this car was engineered so well, that it managed the weight with ease.

Brakes are four-wheel discs. Our SS with 1LE Performance Package includes four-piston fixed Brembo aluminum calipers in both the front and rear. Rotors are 14” in front and 14.4” in the rear. Stopping feels powerful, steady and consistent with no noticeable fade, and a firm pedal feel.

On the Track

There is no denying the Camaro’s long history on the track. The Camaro is in the Grand-Am Rolex Series, SCCA’s Trans-Am Road Race Series, SCCA’s American Sedan Series, as well as several others. To continue with this tradition, Chevy is pursuing SCCA approval of the Camaro SS with 1LE Performance Package for Touring Class competition in anticipation of people entering it in amateur-racing events.

We had the opportunity to drive the Camaro at the Monticello Motor Club race track. This track has a great combination of long straights, elevation changes, and turns. We were always aware what the engine was doing and how close we were to redline since we were always in-tune to the harmonious engine sound. On straights the engine is strong pulling you faster and faster. When approaching curves, the Brembo brakes do an equally great job at slowing you down and showed no signs of fade. The suspension keeps you planted and well balanced allowing you to take turns quickly. The car grips the road really well and the throttle can be managed to induce a fun level of over-steer.

It’s a Camaro SS with the 1LE Performance Package!

People absolutely take instant notice when they see the Camaro whether being driven on the road, or parked. And it’s easy to see why. This car has a huge presence similar to that of a pop star. Think tween girls reacting to seeing Justin Bieber in person, but replace Justin Bieber with the Camaro, and replace tween girls with guys of all ages.

On several different occasions, strangers asked to take photos of the car and learn more about it. Friends and family asked for rides (with windows down so they can be seen in it). When we filled up for gas, we had numerous people complement the car and tell us their stories of Camaros they had in the past. One person even spotted us from a distance and followed us into a parking lot to get a closer look at the car, then proceed to speak to us in the pouring rain for 15 minutes about it.

The overall look of the car takes the retro styling and gives it a beautiful modern look. One of our family members has a ’69 Camaro sitting in their driveway awaiting restoration. When he and his father-in-law who’s a huge Camaro buff saw our car in person, their adoration towards what Chevy did was pretty amazing. They walked around the car talking about how much of the old Camaro was translated and brought into the present with this car. It was clearly evident that they had a large amount of respect for what the Camaro was, and now is.

The side view stands out with a low roofline, short windows, a steeply raked windshield, long doors, blacked out B-pillars, a thick yellow C-pillar that widens as it gets lower, shapely fenders over the rear wheels, styling gills just forward of the rear wheels, large wheels, and a short rear deck. Our modern version of the Camaro carries forth many aspects of the past such as the hood shape, and the three distinct “ridges”, among many other aspects of the vehicle.

In the rear, you’ll find twin red taillights, a dual mode performance exhaust with quad outlets, and a black spoiler. Our car’s 1LE performance package further enhances its ability to stand out. It has a matt-black hood contrasting with the yellow body, a functional front splitter, a black rear spoiler which helps reduce aerodynamic lift at high speeds, and 10-spoke low gloss black wheels with P285/35ZR20 Goodyear Eagle Supercar Generation 2 performance summer tires. And no, these aren’t cheap so be careful of how much you enjoy your burnouts!

This car is an instant classic that will be displayed at car shows and cruise nights 20 and 30 years from now. One thing that bothered us considering this is the plastic engine cover which is made to look like its part of the engine. It looks great at first glance, but as you get closer to it or touch it, you quickly realize that it’s a phony. It can be removed but the engine bay isn’t as pleasing to the eyes without it.

Interior

Before entering the cabin, we were expecting it to have a budget interior with hard plastics galore, not a lot of room or comfort, and the visibility to be horrendous. Fortunately were pleasantly surprised in many areas.

The modern-retro design theme continues on the inside, but with added class from the 1LE package. Upon entry, the door sills wear aluminum kick plates containing the name “Chevrolet”. We were able to get very comfortable in the front seats and find a great driving position. Both driver and passenger seats are covered in heated leather, and are six-way power adjustable (including height adjustment). The tilt and telescopic steering wheel is trimmed in sueded microfiber and has a flat bottom to assist in entry/exit. The short-throw shifter is also trimmed in sueded microfiber as part of the 1LE package. Headroom is limited, but seems worse than it is since the front seats can be lowered. One of our staff is 6’3” and commented how impressed he was with the amount of room he had inside.

At first, sitting inside the Camaro feels like you’re sitting in a tank with short windows and a low roofline. Once driving though you forget all about this and enjoy the experience. The overall ambiance inside the cabin is enhanced  during the evening with a light package that includes an LED light pipe on the door panels providing a distinctive glow. While we couldn’t capture photos that did it justice, it does add some class to the car.

The main instrument gauges are trimmed in a silver colored housing and includes a speedometer on the left with water temperature gauge below that, and a tachometer to the right with a fuel level gauge below that. The information center is located in between the two main gauges and can display information such as mileage, trip computer information, warning indicators, navigation directions and more. Additional gauges for oil pressure, oil temperature, volts and transmission fluid temperature are mounted low on the center console and are a throw-back to the first generation Camaro. Ours also came equipped with a head-up display which can be adjusted for position, dimmed, or turned off, and can project speed, RPM, navigation, and audio system details. The climate controls on the center stack are very simple to operate, but not that easy to read at a glance due to the size of the images on the buttons and the white on grey coloring of the images.

Our car also came equipped with MyLink. This is an infotainment system within a 7-inch touch-screen and incorporates online services such as Pandora internet radio, and Stitcher SmartRadio using voice activation or touch-screen controls via Bluetooth-enabled phones. It also has voice activated Bluetooth hands-free calling capability, and the typical capabilities of infotainment systems such as AM/FM/Sirius XM tuners, auxiliary and USB inputs. We didn’t test this system in its entirety, but we did listen to the Boston Acoustics premium nine-speaker stereo system which sounds okay, but who cares about that? The best soundtrack is the one coming from the exhaust.

Rear seats are better than we were expecting for a two-door muscle car. One day I had to drive my family which includes two children to a pumpkin patch, and then to a party 45 minutes away. We planned on taking a different car altogether. However, this is not a car I wanted sitting in my driveway. I “needed” to fit two child car seats in the rear. Surprisingly they fit. In addition to that, the front seat occupants didn’t have to slide forward to an uncomfortable position to accommodate them. Dave experienced a similar reaction with his four year old son who when asked about rear comfort said “it’s a Camaro!! It’s fine daddy.”

Visibility outside the Camaro can be challenging in some areas. The A-pillars are a little wide but front corner visibility is not bothersome. Rear corner visibility, however, is extremely difficult due to the large C-pillars, and makes merging, lane changing, and backing out of driveways difficult. A blind spot monitoring system would be really helpful in this car. Rear visibility is okay, but is improved significantly with the rear-view camera which is displayed when backing up.

Storage

The trunk can either be opened by pressing a button on the key fob, or inside of the driver’s side door. The trunk has a high lift-over and a small opening, so large items will be difficult to load. It holds 11.3 cubic feet of cargo. However the trunk extends deep which allows items to be pushed far back making room for other items. The rear seat also folds flat but does not split. Beneath the floor of the trunk is a tire sealant, inflator kit and the battery. Unfortunately our car didn’t come with a spare tire.

Availablility

The 1SS Coupe starts at $32,635 and features a 6.2L 426-horsepower V8 with manual transmission only or 400-horsepower V8 with automatic and Active Fuel Management (automatic transmission only), 20” Bright Silver-painted aluminum wheels, Pirelli PZero tires, Performance Tuned suspension, four-piston Brembo vented disc brakes, limited-slip rear differential and SS-specific front and rear fascias.

Our 2SS Coupe starts at $36,135 and includes leather-appointed seating, Head-Up Display, four-gauge auxiliary cluster, Boston Acoustics® premium nine-speaker stereo system, USB portand rear camera that displays within the 7” touchscreen radio.

The 1LE Performance Package adds $3,500 to the price of the SS.

Summary

The 2013 Chevrolet Camaro SS with the 1LE Performance Package is a sensory delight that few other cars can deliver. It satisfies our performance car needs at a fraction of the cost of many others out there. The modern take on classic styling is attention grabbing, the surfaces you touch most often are soft and designed so you don’t want to let go of them. The sound of the engine and exhaust is sweet music to our ears. The acceleration is quick. The handling is great while the ride remains everyday comfortable. Finally, you don’t see them everywhere and you feel proud driving it. We’re pleased that Chevy decided to bring the 1LE Performance Package back to the Camaro for 2013 and they succeeded in keeping the excitement going.

RealWorldRoadTests Second Opinion – Dave Gran
I’ll admit to not being a classic car guy. I’ve certainly never been into any of the previous Camaro generations. I’ve also seen this fifth generation Camaro before both in person and on television, but never had a desire to drive it. Wow, did I almost miss out. This car is sooooo much fun to drive! In the week we had it, I decided it was best not to tally up the gas bill primarily because I couldn’t stop driving it. At the same time, I didn’t mind hitting the pump because I was getting so much enjoyment out of the car. I drove it, came home, made other reasons to go out again, and then tried to figure other excuses to not end the fun.

The impact this car has is truly impressive, and I felt proud being associated with the car. Evidently I wasn’t the only one since a few kids we know asked me to drive by their friends houses to show the car off, then asked me to fib a little and say that I was their Uncle.

The giggle factor with this car is amazing. While my wife didn’t think it was such a hoot when I accelerated onto the highway and she was thrown backwards into her seat, she chuckled due to how much fun I was having. Damn, this is such a cool and fun car that you just have to go out and try.

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Vehicle type: Front Engine, RWD, 4 Passenger, 2-Door
Base price (including destination): $37,035
Price as tested (including destination): $43,105
Engine: 6.2 L V8 w/SFI
Horsepower: 426 HP @5,900 RPM
Torque: 420 lb. ft. @ 4,600 RPM
Transmission: 6-Speed Manual
Curb Weight: 3,860 lbs
RWRT’s 0 – 60 MPH: 4.9 Seconds
EPA Rating (city/hwy/comb): 16/24/19
Recommended Fuel: Premium Unleaded

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